CMS Football Falls In See-Saw Opener to Puget Sound 45-35

CMS Football Falls In See-Saw Opener to Puget Sound 45-35

CLAREMONT, Calif. - Garrett Cheadle (HMC '20) carried for 118 yards and three touchdowns, but it wasn't quite enough as the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps football team dropped a back-and-forth 45-35 decision to Puget Sound in the season opener for both teams on Saturday afternoon at Zinda Field.

The loss marked the third time in the last five years that the two programs have met on opening day with the Loggers prevailing in close contests each time, including a 22-19 overtime win in 2015 in their last trip to Zinda Field. Puget Sound also won a 13-10 decision at home to start the 2014 campaign. 

Cheadle's third touchdown came on a one-play, 25-yard drive to tie the score 35-35 with 4:48 to go, after a 70-yard kickoff return from Jordan Leonard (CMC '21) helped the Stags recover quickly from a Puget Sound go-ahead touchdown 22 seconds prior, when the Loggers' Matt Ahnin picked up a fumble and returned it 76 yards for a score. 

However, the Loggers responded behind back-up quarterback Murdock Rutledge, who threw a jump ball in the back of the end zone from 30 yards out that was pulled down in traffic with 2:59 to play by Alvin Johnson. The Stags tried to answer again, but the Logger defense sealed the win with back-to-back sacks on third down and fourth down to force CMS to turn the ball over on downs. Puget Sound tacked on a harmless field goal with nine seconds left to close out the scoring. 

The Stags had the better of the early play and took a 21-7 lead on the second of two-yard scoring runs from Cheadle with 3:41 left in the second quarter. CMS forced Puget Sound to turn the ball over on down on the first drive of the game, and the Stags took advantage of the short field to convert on a 39-yard drive, culminating when quarterback Jack Norville (CMC '21) found tight end Nick Parise (CMC '21) in the back corner of the end zone for a 17-yard touchdown on 3rd-and-13 with 9:30 left in the first quarter. 

After Puget Sound answered back with a Vance Wood five-yard touchdown run to cap off a 14-play, 82-yard drive with 3:13 left in the first, Cheadle scored twice in a row in the second quarter to put the Stags ahead 21-7. The first one came with 10:33 left in the half, after Norville had a 10-yard scramble on third-and-10 to keep the drive going. After the Stag defense held, and a short punt gave CMS possession on its own 48, Cheadle had a 23-yard reception, and Ethan Takeyama (CMC '21) had a 15-yard grab to help set up the second two-yard plunge in succession to make the score 21-7 with 3:41 to go in the half. 

The Loggers were able to take some of the momentum back going into the locker room as they converted on a two-yard touchdown pass from Nick Bernhardt to Michael Zabran with 10 seconds left in the half to make the score 21-14 at the break. That turned out to be the start of a 21-0 run, as Puget Sound scored on its first two second-half possessions as well, a Jewell Day 25-yard reception and a Johnson 23-yard reception to take its first lead at 28-21 with 8:02 left in the third. 

The Stags faced a fourth-and-three on the final play of the third quarter at the Puget Sound 40-yard line, and got more than the first down out of it. Norville hit tight end Zach Heffernan (CMC '21) with a short swing pass along the right sideline past the sticks, and Heffernan was then able to break free and fight off a final would-be tackler inside the 10-yard line to get into the end zone and knot the score up at 28-28 heading into the fourth.

CMS had a drive going deep in Puget Sound territory, but Ryan Hickey was able to punch the ball free near the sideline and Ahnin was able to scoop it up and run untouched over 76 yards to give the Loggers back the 35-28 lead, but Leonard's kickoff return quickly got the Stags right back in it. CMS had a little pressure on the extra point after a holding penalty, but Alessandro Maiuolo (HMC '22) calmly booted home the 30-yarder to tie the score 35-35. 

Defensively, Stag linebacker Mitchell Allan (CMC '19) led the way with 15 tackles (six solo), while Camrion Davis (CMC '21) had a big sack on a Puget Sound fourth-down play in the final quarter as part of his seven tackles. Johnson had the biggest offensive numbers of the day for Puget Sound, tallying 12 catches for 193 yards and two touchdowns, including the eventual game-winner on a spectacular individiual effort. 

CMS will be back in action next weekend when it hosts Northwestern (Minn.) for a 1 p.m. game at Zinda Field, its second straight non-conference home game to open the season.